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AB de Villiers vs Dale Steyn: A saga of two battles separated by two years at the IPL

In IPL 2012, RCB needed 39 in 18 balls when AB de Villiers (left) hammered 23 in an over from Dale Steyn. In 2014, he hit 24 © IANS
In IPL 2012, RCB needed 39 in 18 balls when AB de Villiers (left) hammered 23 in an over from Dale Steyn. In 2014, he hit 24 © IANS

AB de Villiers has had two memorable duels against his compatriot Dale Steyn two years apart in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Nishad Pai Vaidya writes why the onslaught of 2012 ranks higher than de Villiers’ latest pyrotechnics in IPL 2014.

In the era of T20 batsmen are fearless! But AB de Villiers takes bravado to a new level with his inventive displays with the willow. Up against the most feared fast bowler in this era, de Villiers maintains the same mojo. It doesn’t matter if it is a thunderbolt, de Villiers makes it look a cinch when he nonchalantly carts the ball around the park. Most other batsmen would crumble against Dale Steyn, fearing his reputation and losing the plot against his pace. But for de Villiers, his South African teammate presents a challenge to overcome.

The latest de Villiers-Steyn duel does take fans back to the IPL 2012 when the former stunned his teammate with a similar display at the same ground. On both occasions, Steyn could do nothing but watch and smile. All his deliveries were dealt severely by de Villiers and that performance warranted all appreciation. But, if one compares his latest blitz and the previous, one would say that the performance of 2012 would stand out.

Back in 2012, Steyn (playing for the erstwhile Deccan Chargers) came in to bowl when Bangalore needed 39 off 18 balls. On Sunday, Steyn returned in the penultimate over with Bangalore needing 28. On both occasions, de Villiers was the lone hope for Bangalore, with not many recognised batsmen left in the hut. The men at the other end, J Syed Mohammed (2012) and Mitchell Starc (2014) only had to ensure de Villiers faces majority of the deliveries. But that is where the near similarities end.

When one goes down memory lane and revisits the duel of 2012, one would find that Steyn did try everything to outsmart his compatriot. This year, Steyn wasn’t at his best and did not attack the areas he normally hits. He did however get one up against de Villiers earlier when the 17th over went for only three runs. But, that level of consistency was missing when he had to bowl what was the most important over of the game. Steyn did not bowl a yorker and his execute his plans well.

In 2012, Steyn had bowled two quick Yorkers. They were good enough to trouble any batsman, but not de Villiers. The first yorker was flicked through square-leg, which fetched him two. But, off the second one, de Villiers made room and lofted it into the stands at cover. It was bowler to perfection, full and heading into middle stump. De Villiers just dispatched that as if it was a gentle half-volley. And, a slower ball was also smashed towards mid-wicket.

Coming back to the present, Steyn bowled a slower one on a length, which gave de Villiers all the time in the world to smash it for six. Then there was a half-volley, in the slot to hit it over long on. And, with the mid-off in, Steyn bowled a half-volley around the off-stump, allowing de Villiers to free the arms. That certainly isn’t something one expected from Steyn then. The only big similarity was the scoop behind square off pacy deliveries. Those shots signified de Villier’s true artistry. But, one would say that Steyn’s latest over wasn’t his best and that is why, de Villier’s onslaught of 2012 would rank higher in comparison.

However, one must remember that Steyn isn’t your perfect death bowler. He does not fire the yorkers in regularly, but believes in hitting the right areas. There have been a few spells at the death where maintained a hold over batsmen by bowling his stuff and not trying those yorkers. One would talk about a spell against Mumbai Indians in 2012 at Visakhapatnam, when he almost single-handedly fashioned a win. The latest example is when he helped his country defend seven off the last over against New Zealand at the ICC World T20 2014. Even then, there weren’t too many yorkers. Yet, he emerged victorious.

So, what does that tell us? The best bowler in the world may get away with a few against the other batsmen, but not against de Villiers.

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(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)

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